Super Rare Pacific Footballfish Washes Up on Cannon Beach, Oregon

pacific footballfish
The Pacific footballfish is almost never seen in person. Photo: Seaside Aquarium

The Pacific footballfish is exceedingly rare. Beachgoers at Cannon Beach in Oregon, though, stumbled across one recently.

It’s a very strange creature. You’ve likely seen images of various types of anglerfish before — about six inches long with needle-like teeth, tiny eyes, and a dangling stalk protruding from its head. That stalk is tipped with a bioluminescent bulb called an esca, which is used to lure prey in. Females are far larger than the males — up to ten times bigger — and the males are what we call “sexual parasites.” That means, in short, that “they find and fuse themselves to females, eventually losing their eyes, internal organs, and everything else but the testes.”

The male then becomes basically a permanent appendage that slurps up nutrition from the female host, who has easy access to the sperm. They live way down deep, around 2,000 to 3,000 feet down, which explains why we almost never see them.

According to the Seaside Aquarium, “only 31 specimens have been recorded around the world.” There are around 300 species of anglerfish, and the football fish is one of them. The one found on Cannon Beach was a female, and it’s thought that this is the first one to wash up on the Oregon coast.

In October of 2023, another one washed up in Crystal Cove State Park in California, but there’s still a whole lot we don’t know about the weird and wonderful fish.

“While a handful of football fish have been recorded in New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Hawaii, Ecuador, Chile, and California this is the first one reported on the Oregon Coast to our knowledge,” the Seaside Aquarium wrote on Facebook. “Little is known about their life history but what is known is unusually fascinating.”

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